COMUSIC REVIEW – BALD EAGLE, MEGAZILLA, JACK BUCK @ Mojo’s

Okay, so I know that 2012 is literally in it sfinal moments as I type this. Snow is falling and within 24 to 48 hours we begin the slow transition from holiday mode to business as usual (though the college winter break will make it linger on a little longer in Columbia). However, at a time when a chunk of the college kids are off with families and taking care of things elsewhere what could arguably be considered the best event of 2012 happened on December 29th when reunion fever of sorts took place at Mojo’s with the return of Bald Eagle (playing thier fourth reunion show) and Como band turned Austinites Megazilla (playing their first show since breaking up a little over four years ago).

Jack Buck

Jack Buck kicking the night off with a small explosion.

The opening slot was held by St. Louis band Jack Buck, who offered up a set of pummeling noise rock full of thick bottom end and sometimes dissonant guitars with humbucker tones that almost have to be scooped out of the speakers. The results lie somewhere between noise, punk and metal with a touch of the experimental thrown in for good measure. Some of the songs had a feel slightly similar to No Means No but the band is far from a copy of that. An interesting set that hinted at the aural carnage to come.

Megazilla

Corey of Megazilla driving home the noise.

 

After a few minutes to set up and making sure things were ready Megazilla returned to life playing the middle slot of this show. The duo took no prisoners with an intense set that merged noise rock aggression and fury with elements of almost prog like precision using just drums, the occasional sample, and an 8 string bass (tuned in fifths). Tight, heavy, harsh, and somehow melodic that band delivered some heavy music that drew on the energy of the night and made you like it. It was great to see Megazilla back (especially for those people who didn’t get to see them the first time around) and playing as if they never stopped.

 

Bald Eagle

Behold the ferocity of Bald Eagle in action.

A short time later Bald Eagle came up on stage to tear the place apart. Delivering a setof their patented post metal riff rock, the band’s dual guitar delivery blended precision and heft for a sound as heavy as it was intricate. Hard driving with an occasionl lush synth element at times, the band created an energy loop that fed off the crowd and returned the vibe with an intensity that had to be witnessed to be understood. In a truly just world Bald Eagle would be album rock mainstays (or at least regularly featured on their metal shows) but for now its the crowd on the ground who’s there to see what’s up. I don’t know if there will be more shows but that would be cool if there were.

As the last distorted power chord vibe faded into the ether and we ventured out into the cold we were drained a bit from the energy inside. However, it was time to head for parts unknown and see what was ahead. 2013 was around the corner but tonight was the good early way to send off the final moments of 2012. A great show and one that met all expectations.

COMUSIC REVIEW: Hooten Hallers 45 Release Party @ Off Broadway in St. Louis

Okay it’s the 14th of September and I found myself in the St. Louis area this weekend for work related reasons. While I know a couple of people and have relatives in the area I also wonder what else is going on as the days approach. In my research I come across  news that Columbia’s own the Hooten Hallers will be having a release party for their new 45 RPM record at Off Broadway in St. Louis. Needing something to do Friday night, I decide to head over there and see what things were like. Here’s a brief example of the artists who played and the atmosphere there.

 

Doormat and Littel Rachel starting off the night.

St. Louis; Doormat and Little Rachel played first. Their old timey blues with male/female vocals and an electrified dobro style guitar was a blend of both old blues and jazz as well as some originals. Intimate, even a little tinny (a metal bodied guitar will do that), the duo had a swing feel and made the most of their brief set to play something that seems a world away but will fit the tenor of the night better than some would expect.

Jack Grelle and the Johnson Family bringing the honky tonk to us.

 

After several missed opportunities I finally get to chance one time local Jack Grelle’s latest project – Jack Grelle and the Johnson Family playing live. Ranging from five to seven people, the band transforms Grelle’s old timey folk country songs into stone country tracks one would find on a jukebox at a honky tonk. Full of pedal steel guitar and tales of life, loss, and people you wish would get lost Grelle and company were largely acoustic, even mixing in a bit of Western Swing into the sound that’s rooted somewhere between Austin and Bakersfield as much as the Midwest. Those familiar with Grelle’s previous solo work will be pleased with this fleshing out of his sound.

Bugchaser taking the night somewhere completely different.

Bugchaser veered things into a complete different path. Their music was high energy space rock (for lack of a better term) built of dual drums and dual keyboards as much as spaced out or fuzzed our guitar. Driving and high energy their songs walk more of a punk or garage feel than the roots music of the earlier acts. Still, the chaos was less of a contrast than one would think.

The tension in the crowd grew as Hooten Hallers came on to play. As you may have guessed, their nasty, stripped down blues rock tore the house down. Delivered with an intensity that neared vintage punk at times, John and Andy fed off the crowd’s energy and gave it right back with some greasy guitars and primal drumming that hit the spot like an after bars late night diner breakfast. Tight, energy draining and aggressive, this turned out to be one of the best shows I’d ever seen by them, I was expecting a lot and I wasn’t disappointed.

Hooten Hallers taking the night over.

And with that it ended. As last call hit we ventured out into the autumn air and various plans (ranging from parties to sleep – depending on the person). Regardless, this was one of those events that I needed to witness.

COMUSIC REVIEW- Trio Kablammo, Missouri Weather and the Wait 5 @ Artrageous Friday

As I type this we are suffering under the weight of one of the worst droughts in years (if not decades) Several weeks of nearly constant 100° plus days has created a stifling heat that has gotten people on edge and made people not want to go outside anywhere unless absolutely necessary. However, since cabin fever can drive people up the walls, sometimes you have to brave the heat and get away. For me it was after doing some errands Friday night and the realization that I needed to have a night out that led me to finally fulfill a promise and see a band I’ve been meaning to for a while but had been unable to in the past.

 

Missouri Weather and the Wait 5 laying it down

Missouri Weather and the Wait 5 laying it down

I arrived at the back of Artrageous gallery in downtown Columbia shortly after Artrageous Friday’s house band Missouri Weather and the Wait 5 started playing. This local quintet provided a sonic backdrop of classic sounding rock drawing from a mix of jazz and blues elements with a fair element of improvisation and some hints of heavy metal at points. Built around Anna’s vocals and acoustic guitar work, the songs have a lilting quality where lush organ and piano percolate to evoke vibes that are part jam band but one may also hear touchstones of classic rock ranging from Van Morrison and Atlanta Rhythm Section in their sound. This band is still fairly young but standing at a crossroads between class rock/jam band style roots and melding more modern sounds within it. This band is slowly building a following in the region and looks to be growing into a promising live act.

 

TK

Trio Kablammo taking things somewhere unexpected – as expected.

I didn’t know Trio Kablammo would be playing tonight until I found out just after Missouri Weather began playing, making this a welcome surprise. The band rose to the challenge to deliver a set of their trademark jam/country rock complete with their trademark skewed sense of humor. Filtering jazz chords and thumb picked lead guitar with a tight rhythm section, the trio came up with a set that was relatively breezy, slightly snarky, and a respite from the sweltering heat outside. While Trio Kablammo was unexpected, they added a feel to the event hat complimented the night.
Eventually, I went out into the night. Between Ana Popovic playing Summerfest on 9th St and a couple of club shows, this was a quasi-sleepy night in Columbia. However, sometimes when you seek things out on a hot somewhat sleepy night, what you might may surprise you.

CoMusic Review: Photos from Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin on The Missouri Theatre Center for The Arts patio

That may be a record setting post title. Maybe I should have gone with SSLYBY @ The MO Theatre. After a late night of thesis writing in the coffee shop Tuesday, I just happened to see the show advertised on the theater marquee as I walked past. I didn’t even know the theater had a patio, so the fact they were holding a show on it definitely intrigued me. It didn’t hurt that I think SSLYBY is one of the most underrated bands performing today (ignore the fact that their debut Broom was the love child of just about every music blog except Pitchfork).

SSLYBY played well, plus had a strong showing of super fans standing in front, singing along with every song. Unfortunately, the mix was way off and even with the extra help the vocals were muddy and sometimes absent. John Robert Cardwell and Phillip Dickey often trade vocals or interweave them throughout a song. Since the mic at the drum set was turned down so low, it seemed like one singer was giving the silent treatment to the other. Plus, the patio’s geometry really lends itself better to a wine and cheese function with a jazz band than a crowded rock show. But for what it’s worth, SSLYBY played well, the crowd was into it, and it’s hard to beat a night of music with your friends under the warm Missouri sky.

CoMusic Review: Photos from Mission of Burma at Mojo’s

Mission of Burma brought their post-punk act to Columbia last night with a stop at Mojo’s. The Riverfront Times music blog indicates that prior to this tour, Mission of Burma’s sole Missouri performance was at Mizzou’s Springfest in 2004. That’s a rather unflattering statistic for our state since the band has trekked across the states on a number of tours over the three and a half decades of its existence (granted, the band was on hiatus for 20 years). I expected a large crowd to come out for such a widely respected group, but there was actually plenty of breathing room inside Mojo’s. Perhaps that should be expected when a late 70s-era punk band plays a college town. After all, Mizzou freshman were only 9 years old when Mission of Burma reached their second peak in popularity after their reformation in 2002.

 

CoMusic Review: Photos from Band of Skulls at Adult Swim Carnival Tour

The Adult Swim Carnival Tour came to Columbia last night. The event was just about what you would expect from Cartoon Network’s night late programming block: weird and wonderful. Add in popular UK group Band of Skulls and make it all free, and you’ve got a really fun night. Shakespeare’s parking lot made the transition to carnival midway throughout Thursday. By mid-afternoon a giant inflatable Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force had been erected atop Shakespeare’s. The carnival featured classic games such as Balloonacorn, Flunko, University of China, IL wheel, and Smack Up My Ulna. Despite all the distractions, the crowd was attentive throughout Band of Skulls’ set. The band rewarded the crowd with a set that extended 20 minutes past their scheduled time.

 

CoMusic Review: Photos from White Rabbits at The Blue Note

White Rabbits formed in Columbia in 2004, but soon moved to Brooklyn. They quickly rose to national prominence with their debut album Fort Nightly, appearing on Letterman soon after the album was released. The group returned to Columbia last night, a few years and two more albums under their belt. Gull opened for White Rabbits. Gull is an interesting project with a major contradiction. It is a one-man band, yet has the sound and aura of a tribe. The consistently great Believer’s also opened the show.

Gull

 

COMUSIC REVIEW: Jack Grelle – self titled CD

Jack Grelle lives in one of the more interesting dualities in the world of Columbia, MO’s music scene. On one front is his footing in punk and hardcore, having been both the drummer for Bookmobile and the male vocalist in Task Force. However, what is slightly less known, is his foray into folk and country music that has occurred in tandem with his work in both bands, first under the pseudonym Javelin Track but eventually under his own name. After several years of intimate shows in houses and a couple of tours, this side of his work has finally been caught on disc.

On Jack Grelle’s self titled solo debut, he takes a stripped down approach in these tales of drifting and traveling delivered with a feel that’s part old timey yet also moody and relevant. Built around his acoustic guitar work and vocals, there’s a lonesome feeling on some of these tracks (“Jack’s Blouse,” “Troubled Mind”), while others use a minimal approach with some occasional banjo, fiddle, and some backup vocals to create a sound that both longs for connection while carrying on within its own space. Whether it’s a traveling song of sorts (“Don’t Follow a Line”) or a catchy live favorite that fans will recognize instantly (“Talkin’ Pocatello Blues”) Grelle and company manages to create audio tales of life, struggle, longing, and travel in its ups and downs that, while staying traditional in nature, seems way more current than the slick twanged up pop too many try and pass off as country music these days.

Jack Grelle isn’t a CD that will be everyone’s cup of tea. The stripped down sound and diverse subject matter will likely alienate those who just want some love songs or a simple aural wallpaper. However, for listeners willing to take the risk it does provide a listen that’s worth going to the store (or checking out his bandcamp page) to hear.

CoMusic Review: Photos from Dr. Dog at The Blue Note

Dr. Dog paid a visit to Columbia last night. They were last in town four long years ago. Back in 2007, they played Mojo’s and an in-store at Slackers during a tour with What Made Milwaukee Famous (incidentally, this photographer caught that tour in St. Louis at the Creepy Crawl). They played Mojo’s again in 2008. It seems time has treated the good doctor well, because now they’re playing a near-capacity Blue Note. This show must have sold very well, because the big barricade was up near the stage, a rarity at The Blue Note.

I’ve seen Dr. Dog a number of times before, including an opening slot for The Black Keys. This is the best show I’ve seen from them. In part it was probably due to the silly stage decorations that included multiple tiger heads and fireplaces and better lighting. The crowd interaction was almost nil, save for an extended staredown by the bassist Toby during “Fate.” Still, energy was high and the music sounded great. Dr. Dog has left their lo-fi origins far behind. The set included a number of cuts from the band’s excellent recent effort Be The Void. Scroll to the bottom for a full setlist.

Givers opened the show. I’ll admit, I knew nothing about them, but I liked what I heard. One of my friends realized he knew two of their songs without actually knowing the band. He claimed that he heard them on a Minnesota radio station, but it turns out it was probably from the Fifa 2012 video game soundtrack.

 Givers

Dr. Dog Setlist:

That Old Black Hole
Stranger
The Breeze
The Ark
Do The Trick
Lonesome
Shadow People
Hang On
I Only Wear Blue
Someday
The Rabbit, The Bat, and The Reindeer
These Days
Heavy Light
Fate
The Old Days
Shame, Shame

Encore (This is from a previous show. Any ideas if it’s correct?):
The Way the Lazy Do
Vampire
My Friend
Jackie Wants a Black Eye
Heart It Races (Architecture in Helsinki cover)

All photos by Benjamin Gross

CoMusic Review: Photos from Twin Sister at Mojo’s

Twin Sister often get thrown in with the “Chillwave” group, but their set last night at Mojo’s didn’t exactly add credence to that label. Their performance often strayed into ambient territory, including an extended jam at the end that lead singer Andrea Estella watched from the crowd with a Blue Moon in hand. Ava Luna was a real pleasure to hear. There a strong funk and soul influence running through their music. The crowd dug it. Neatly Knotted also opened.

Ava Luna

Photos by Benjamin Gross